Featured in this report:
01 - Overview
Our observations include the brands and categories shown above. These
products can be found in most retail supermarkets, nutritional and specialty
02 - Environment
The above images were taken at supermarkets and health food stores in the
metropolitan New York City area. Low-carb products were originally found
in specialty stores. Now they are found in just about every section of the
supermarket. In some cases, there are dedicated sections of the supermarket
for low-carb diet foods while some products are placed along side the original
versions of the same brand.
With the introduction of more low-carb foods or foods with carb-conscious
claims, dedicated sections may become extinct, giving way to side-by-side
placement for easy comparison and decision making. Low-carb products will
have to stand out even more once they are added to the mix of mainstream
03 - Low-Carb Brands
Atkins is the most recognized brand of low-carb products. Other recognizable
brands include Keto, Carb Fit and Carb Options. A host of sub-branded
products from mainstream brands are gaining in popularity. Carb Options from
Unilever Bestfoods taps into the popularity of existing brands, like, Skippy,
Hellmann's, and Ragu.
Some of the more authentic, health food brands need to pick up the slack in
appetite appeal and brand presence now that they are faced with mainstream
brands as competition. Carb Options has come out swinging with a bright
color palette and more unified, consumer friendly look. br>
The long-term battle for the hearts and minds of consumers between pure low-carb brands and sub-branded products from existing brands will bear watching.
04 - Sub-Brands
Some existing brands have extended their line of products with low-carb
sub-brands. Relevant new names for products, such as, "Carb Well," "Carb
Countdown," "Carb Control," and "Carb Counting" are among the pack.
Creating sub-brands can be a safety feature that will allow products to be
phased out if the low-carb craze loses popularity, leaving the master brand
It also takes advantage of brand loyalty with existing consumers, while
attracting new consumers looking for low-carb products.
05 - Owning Color
"Carb Fit" and Atkins' "Endulge" have successfully taken the lead with
recognizable colors to get consumer attention by using a coherent palette
across their products. "Carb Options" has set the "blue" standard as the
primary color for low-carb and others are following suit. Heinz, Entenmann's
and Lean Cuisine are brands using the color blue in banners and flagging to
A marketing home run for Unilever Bestfoods and the color blue. A well
conceived approach and strong color signal ties the entire suite of products
together, no matter what category they're in. The blue color also suggests
"light," & "healthy." br>
New and existing brands should take into account the popularity of the color
blue as the low-carb communicator and adjust their palettes accordingly -- for
both their low-carb and mainstream products.
06 - Typestyle
Most products are communicated through the use of hand lettered, or
italicized typography, suggesting a product that is fresh, active and tasty.
These fonts appeal to the main decision maker when coming to purchasing
foodstuffs, the female of the household.
It's hard to say if angled script typography is a product of the carb specific
design or a trend in consumer packaging across the board. It does convey an
active, and healthy message; something all products want to communicate. br>
The spontaneity in which the typography is rendered may also prompt an
impulsive decision to purchase. br>
Italics and scripts can be considered more feminine, friendly, and upscale as
opposed to more authoritative roman or sans-serif fonts.
07 - Primary Communication
Differentiating with the use of the enormous red Atkins "A," a large number
counting grams or carbs, or shouting the new carb product name is the
primary attention-getter. Master brands take on a less significant role.
With such fierce competition and a wave of new products hitting the shelves,
subtle approaches will not cut the mustard. Marketing a low-carb product is
done with a loud voice.
08 - Atkins Endorsement
Atkins has made its red "A" available for endorsement of other brands. This
seal carries a lot of weight (pun intended) and is probably the most recognized
symbol related to a low-carb diet.
As a marketing tool, the symbol provides the authenticity and trust consumers
require while maintaining a strict Atkins diet. It's a great plus for products that
are typically high in carbs, such as baked goods and dairy. br>
Referencing style and color from this symbol may be a way of attracting
attention if marketers are unable to get an actual Atkins endorsement.
09 - Ambiguous Claims
In an effort to grab part of the carb category, many products make claims
that would suggest an improved product. Some make you believe that they are
low-carb by putting a big "0" number in the front of the package and burst that
indicates "For The Carb Conscious" or "Counting Carbs?" Net carb claims are
shrouded in controversy and provide no real benefit to the consumer. Even if
the products have not been reformulated for reduced carbs, it can
be marketed as part of a "low-carb lifestyle."
FDA rules governing low-carb claims are unclear. Consumers may be easily
seduced by packages that seem to be health conscious, yet are loaded
with fat, or reduced in carbs through smaller serving sizes. As with any diet
program, consumers must be educated about the diet program before simply
buying low-carb products with the assumption that they are following a healthy
10 - Low-Key Low-Carb
Some brands have taken a low-key approach to low-carb marketing. Michelob
Ultra is understated. Stouffer's Lean Cuisine, known for its diet conscious
offerings, simply adds a flag with a carb count to its new recipes.
In the case of these examples, the violator or descriptor can be removed
without affecting the overall brand. This may prove to be a wise approach
over the long term.
11 - Close-up Comparison
We put together a mainstream brand and its low-carb, sub-branded cousin, in
this case, Skippy Creamy and Carb Options Skippy to see the differences and
The Carb Options graphic structure is consistent with the other products in the
Carb Options line. Skippy logo used for sub-branding is rather small, just large
enough to be noticed. In this case, the color blue used on Carb Options is not
too far from the shade of blue used on Skippy Creamy, and both brands share
the same peanut butter illustration. br>
Obvious differences between these two products, include typestyle,
background color and pattern. Additionally, Carb Options has much more in
the way of incidental graphics, like the Net Carbs burst, sell copy, and Splenda
brandmark. The fun aspects of Skippy, notably, "Skip," do not make their way
over to the Carb Options pack.
12 - Claim Formats
Since there are no clear regulations from the FDA in regard to how the
amount of carbs are communicated, brands are taking advantage to capture
the attention of buyers.
A standardized system for describing what is a low or reduced-carb product,
would be ideal. Consumers will identify more quickly what they are looking for
without being mislead by "0g" or other subjective claims. br>
Brands should be careful about how they portray the benefits of their products.
Otherwise, they run the risk of being seen in a negative light for using dubious
13 - Defensive Banners
Weight Watchers' Smart Ones is an example of a brand attempting to teach
consumers that the low-carb lifestyle is not the only or best diet option. A
significant portion of the back panel is devoted to explaining what Smart Ones
considers to be the "Truth About Carbs." Other brands with traditionally high
carb products are using the "Carb Conscious" or "Carb Counting" descriptor to
appeal to low-carb dieters.
Very good approach from Smart Ones because, too often, consumers follow
diets without being well informed about how and why they work. This approach
elevates the brand above the low-carb fray, while taking advantage of the
opportunity to reach out to the low-carb consumer.
Low-Carb, Diet Foods, Health Foods, Specialty Foods, Reduced Fat, Unique Claims, Brand Architecture, Endorsements, Sub-Branding, Color, Arnold, Atkins, Carb Conscious, Carb Control, Carb Countdown, Carb Counting, Carb Fit, Carb Options, Carb Solutions, Carb Well, Dannon, Dieters Advantage, Heinz, Keto, Kraft, Lean Cuisine, Morning Star, Mueller's, Reduced Carb, Skippy, Smart Ones